This Sunday marks the last time you will have a chance to field a fantasy football roster with more than a two-team pool. The AFC and NFC title games sound off this weekend, bringing us one step closer to the NFL season’s final game.
Sadly, that means that fantasy football is slowly coming to a close here at Daily Joust, but there’s still time for you to form that perfect roster and walk away from this year with some major coin in your pocket.
We’re taking a close look at both matchups, as we make our game picks, and try to provide some fantasy advice based on player value and potential in these playoff battles:
NFC Title Game: San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
The 49ers looked awesome backed by Colin Kaepernick’s ridiculous rushing production last week, and I really wouldn’t bank on the Falcons doing a great job against Kaep’ and the 49ers’ stellar rushing attack. That doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk win for San Francisco, though, as Atlanta has the talent to get after Kaepernick in the pocket, and shutdown the 49ers’ average receiving corps.
On the flip-side, the 49ers still have a very good defense that could give Matt Ryan and co. major problems. Ryan has explosive weapons in Julio Jones and Roddy White and is at home, though, so that could off-set a bit and keep Ryan’s value at a high level. I wouldn’t bet on Michael Turner finding much running room against an often suffocating 49ers front line, though.
Ultimately, I think Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick meet your expectations based off of their pricey tags this week. If you want to round out a complete roster, though, you might want to roll with Ryan or Tom Brady (I’d take Tom Brady first overall, anyways), as they’re cheaper and carry just as much upside.
We’re late in the year, so there aren’t many fantasy sleepers to be had. Still, LaMichael James fits the bill. He only gets about 4-8 touches per game, but he’s ultra explosive and Atlanta generally stinks against the run. At $40k, he’s the best sleeper in this game, without a doubt.
As for the game pick, this one could easily go either way, but due to Kaepernick’s inexperience, and the fact that the Falcons have to be booming with confidence after finally winning a playoff game in the Matt Ryan-era, I’ll take the Falcons at home.
My pick: Falcons 27, 49ers 23
AFC Title Game: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
This game is an exact rematch of last year’s AFC title game, so there is a ton of emotion packed into this one, along with the revenge factor for Baltimore. Ray Lewis having one foot out the door into retirement adds to the hype, too, but you also can’t discount the fact that the Patriots are equally motivated to return to the Super Bowl and finish the job they couldn’t get done last season.
This one could be a shootout or a defensive battle, and I can’t put my finger on which just yet. Judging by their last two meetings, though, it figures to be somewhat in the middle. Baltimore’s defense is healthy and has looked far better in the playoffs than it has for most of the season, while you just can’t look past Tom Brady and New England’s offense. I think it results in some Patriots turnovers, but ultimately this is a close game that probably doesn’t have either team scoring more than 30-33 points (which is still a lot, I know).
In the fantasy realm, you can’t go wrong with Brady or Wes Welker, while Stevan Ridley should find success against a Ravens defensive line that still isn’t tops against the run. That probably means Shane Vereen is worth using as a RB2, as well. Obviously Aaron Hernandez is a good play with Rob Gronkowski (arm) sidelined again, too, while Brandon Lloyd also has the potential to go off.
For Baltimore, I like what I’ve seen out of Joe Flacco in the playoffs so far, and wouldn’t be shocked at all if he torched a shaky New England secondary en route to a Super Bowl trip. With that said, I’m not willing to fully back Ray Rice in this one, as he’s been inconsistent and the Pats tend to stop the run pretty well. That, and Rice is DJ’s most expensive back. I’d rather roll with Frank Gore or Ridley.
For this game, the top sleeper has to be Dennis Pitta. He’s priced out at just $68k, and I think he’ll easily match or top that value this week.
In the end, I think the dream run ends here and we won’t have a wild card in the Super Bowl for the first time in a few years. Tom Brady and co. at home will prove to be just too much.
My pick: Patriots 30, Ravens 27